LEGO Dimensions review: It’s not selling out, it’s co-branding

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Without sounding flowery, there is something magical about LEGO Dimensions.

While it impressed us throughout with its charm, humour and reliance on existing properties, we didn’t really believe in it until we got to listen to LEGO versions of GLaDOS and HAL 9000 have an argument while we searched for the elusive Portal cake to stop an interdimensional super villain.

Yeah, this is that kind of game.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve skipped proper introductions – how rude of us. LEGO Dimensions is a “toys-to-life” game in the same vein of Skylanders and the now dying Disney Infinity.

To play this game you’ll need to buy a  “Starter Pack“, which includes the game for consoles (from this generation or the last), a toy pad that connects to your console and four small LEGO builds that sit on top of NFC tags (called toy tags). These tags can be moved around the toy pad and they have a tangible effect in game.

In this kit are the the main protagonists: Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie. They will only appear in the game when their toy tags are on the toy pad . And they don’t just sit there and gather dust, as you’ll be moving them around on the toy pad to solve puzzles. More on that later.

What makes this game different in this space is the fact that, instead of some generic plastic toys, you get genuine (very expensive) LEGO and, because LEGO has access to almost every popular intellectual property you can think of, the game is as varied as they come.

It’s almost certainly an easier task to list what isn’t included in this game rather than what is. To save us time and to give you a taste: DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, The A-Team and many, many others make an appearance in this game.

As Homer Simpson said in the Springfield level before the Joker destroyed much of it with a giant mech: it’s not selling out, it’s co-branding.

But, how does this work as a game? Well, if you’ve played any of the LEGO games created by developers Traveller’s Tales in the last decade, then you already know the answer. LEGO Dimensions borrows the  gameplay loop – button-bashing combat, puzzle solving through building, character-specific abilities – that Traveller’s Tales has down to a formula at this point.

So imagine our surprise when the puzzles and storyline were so drastically changed by the introduction of the physical toys.

Let’s talk puzzles. As the game progresses you will be given five abilities to use in game that require you to do something in meatspace using the toy pad. For example: a certain ability allows you to harness the power of electricity, fire and water. Using these elements is key to completing a level, and each relate to a certain colour. The toy pad will then light up in these colours and you will need to move your characters around to the right colour to solve a puzzle in game.

Despite LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens being released after this game, and introducing new mechanics such as the mini builds, Dimensions still has the best puzzles out of the lot. Not only does the pad and the toys add so many extra elements to the puzzles, but they’re satisfying to solve.

Even though this game is aimed at players of all ages, the puzzles it contains don’t shortchange you; solving them still imparts a great sense of accomplishment no matter the age of the player.

Now our favourite part of the game; the story. While the LEGO games have always had a great sense of humour, the access to so many characters from so many beloved IPs really gave the writers a chance to shine. The crazy plot combined with superb writing for the characters makes this even better.

One of our favourite parts within that is the dynamic dialogue depending on which toys you’ve shelled out for. One example is that any large character (such as Cyborg from DC if you switch to his bigger form) will bring out dialogue from the characters around them. Gandalf, on seeing the giant robot superhero, claims that there’s a cave troll about.

That having been said, Dimensions is very, very far from perfect.

On a minor level, you’ll be in for many a frustrating moment here. Not because of the puzzles, as you may expect, but because of spotty checkpoints, janky physics and a myriad of glitches.  None of them are game breakers, but they’re there and sure to rub you the wrong way.

Another problem is this game’s platform. After experiencing the beautiful LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 60 FPS on PC, going back to play this on PS4 was a real letdown. We know this is a problem with the machines running the game and not the game itself, but the fact that this game is not offered on PC is a real sticking point for us.

The game can also be dreadfully repetitive, especially on replays. When we lost about an hour’s worth of progress because of a checkpoint, getting back to where we were was like pulling nails. Play in sub 60 minute bursts and this will not be an issue.

Money Money Money

Now for the biggest problem: cost.

The Starter Kit that you need to play this game in the first place is R1 500 on PS4 and Xbox One, and R1 300 for PS3 and Xbox 360. Believe it or not, this is very reasonable.

LEGO Dimensions’ main story is made up of 14 levels that each take around an hour to complete. Fudge the numbers a bit to account for dawdling, mistakes and looking for the odd collectible and you have a 15 hour campaign. That’s around twice the length of a regular LEGO game.

Given that most new titles these days launch at around R1 000 (on console), we think the RRP is fair seeing as you’re getting a lengthy in game experience and physical items.

That having been said, the game’s add-ons raise the overall cost significantly. This game’s DLC comes in three (and soon to be four) flavours: Fun packs, Team Packs, Level Packs and the upcoming Story Packs.

Here’s what each of them cost and what they give you:

  • Fun Pack – R250 – One character and one vehicle
  • Team Pack – R400 – Two characters, two vehicles / objects
  • Level Pack – R450 – One character, two vehicles / objects and a new level

Not only do each of these pieces of DLC contain very little LEGO, but also little DLC. In fact, the Fun and Team packs only unlock characters, vehicles and objects with no new levels to use them in.

Take this example: to get access to a level from Sonic the Hedgehog that will be released soon, you will need to fork out R450.

For these prices you could be buying complete games that are worth far more in play value. Take Enter the Gungeon, a R159 game that is good for at least a hundred hours of solid playtime. Sure, you get no physical toy to play with, but you’ve saved a lot of money.

And, because you get so little LEGO in each of these packs, you could even use that saved money to buy regular old LEGO sets.

We’ll cover the Story Packs soon, but they look to be full LEGO games that can only be played through Dimensions. Packs for the new GhostbustersFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Lego Batman Movie have all been confirmed at $50 (R695, no local pricing yet) each.

That’s right, an expansion for this already expensive game will cost the same as a brand new Triple A title. Prepare your wallets.

LEGO Dimensions review – Conclusion

As the best LEGO game we’ve ever played, and will probably play for a very long time, this title is a triumph for both the developer and LEGO. With Disney Infinity out of the way and Skylanders becoming less popular, we wouldn’t be surprised if Dimensions became the go-to toys-to-life game.

It deserves to be so, but the massive prices and its late arrival make us want to suggest that you give this game a miss until we get some discounts. But we think that won’t be soon, as sources have told us that South Africa will now be receiving new Dimensions content at the same time as overseas markets.

This means that the game won’t be without new content for a while and retailers can still demand top dollar while it is in the spotlight. Add to the fact that there seems to be a very limited amount of the product in the country, and waiting for a discount might seem foolishly optimistic.

It’s a pity, because LEGO Dimensions is a superb game. It’s expensive, but don’t the best things in life cost more?


Review sample provided by publisher | Reviewed on PlayStation 4

Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of